R.N.Tagore on Gandhi


Rabindranath, Gurucharan Thakur and Ambedkar on Gandhi


I have gone through the volumes of DR.BRA and few writings of MKG and now I get privilege to go through “MY LIFE IN MY WORDS” written by Tagore himself in different occasion. Regarding his own won Noble prize, family affairs, foreign tours, Viswa Bharati at Santiniketan, different important home affairs as well as national and international affairs. He has written Gandhi’s thought regarding Sawraj,  Indian society, caste system and how to abolish this impractical social defragmentation which is practicing since last two thousand years. Tagore has given suggestion to eradicate this social evil before true emancipation of the fellow Indian to change their mindset in the social system in India whether it is free or not.


In 1924, the Congress moved a resolution under Gandhi’s recommendation enlisting its members to spin a certain quantity of cloth on the charka as a monthly contribution. The idea was to give the movement countrywide publicity, and also to make spinning a means of bonding between the masses and the politicians. Gandhi came to Santiniketan to discuss the cause of spinning for swaraj with Tagore. Tagore was wholly opposed to the idea and explained his position in an essay called “The cult of the charka” in 1925. He argued that there could be no short-cut to reason and hard work if anything was to succeed; nothing worthwhile could be achieved by ‘mass conversion’ to an idea; that our poverty was a complex phenomenon which could not be solved by the application of spinning and weaving. Was our poverty due to the ‘lack of sufficient thread’, he asked, or was in rather due to ‘our lack of vitality, our lack of unity’? He also objected to the burning of cloth. He argued that it effectively forced the poor to sacrifice even the little they possessed for their dignity and survival. He added that buying and selling cloth from Manchester should be a matter left to the realm of economics. Gandhi agreed with Rabindranath on the need to be patient for swaraj. But he did not accept his argument against the burning of cloth. ‘In burning my foreign clothes I burn my shame’, Gandhi wrote, adding that any ‘economics’ which hurts the well-being of an individual or a nation was ‘immoral and therefore sinful’.


The discussion so far has proceeded on the assumption that the large scale production of homespun thread and cloth will result in the alleviation of the country’s poverty. But after all, that is a gratuitous assumption. Those who ought to know have expressed doubts on the point. It is however better for an ignoramus like me to refrain from entering in this controversy. My complaint is that by the promulgation of this confusion between swaraj and charka, the mind of the country is being distracted from swaraj.


We must have a clear idea of the vast thing that the welfare of our country means. To confine our idea of it to the outsides, or to make it too narrow, diminishes our own power of achievement. The lower the claim made on our mind, the greater the resulting depression of its vitality, the more languid does it become. To give the charka the first place in our striving for the country’s welfare is only a way to make our insulted intelligence recoil in despairing action. A great and vivid picture of the country’s well-being in its universal aspect, held before our eyes, can alone enable our countrymen to apply the best of head and heart to carve out the way along which their varied activities may progress towards that end. If we make the picture petty our striving becomes petty likewise. The great ones of the world who have made stupendous sacrifices for the land of their birth, or for their fellowmen in general, have all had a supreme vision of the welfare of the country and humanity before their mind’s eye. If we desire to evoke self-sacrifice, then we must assist the people to meditate thus on a grand vision. Heaps of thread and piles of cloth do not constitute the subject of a great picture of welfare. That is the vision of a calculating mind; it cannot arouse those incalculable forces which, in the joy of a supreme realization, cannot only brave suffering and death, but rack nothing either of obloquy and failure.


The child joyfully learns to speak, because from the lips of father and mother it gets glimpses of language as a whole. Even while it understands but little, it is thereby continually stimulated and its joy is constantly at work in order to gain fullness of utterance. If, instead of having before it the exuberance of expression, the child had been hemmed in with grammar texts, it would have to be forced to learn its mother tongue at the point of the cane; and even then could not have none it so soon. It is for this reason I think that if we want the country to take up the striving for swaraj in earnest, then we must make an effort to hold vividly before it the complete image of that swaraj. I do not say that the propositions of this image become immensely large in a short space of time; but we must claim that it be whole, that it be true. All living things are organic wholes at every stage of their growth.  The infant does not begin life at the toe-end nor get its human shape after some years of growth. That is why we can rejoice in it from the very first, and in that joy bear all the pains and sacrifices of helping it to grow. If swaraj has to be viewed for any length of time only as homespun thread, that would be like having an infantile leg to nurse into maturity. A man like the Mahatma may succeed in getting some of our countrymen to take an interest in this kind of uninspiring nature for a time because of their faith in his personal greatness of soul. To obey him is for them an end in itself. To me it seems that such a state of mind is not helpful for the attainment of swaraj.


I think it to be primarily necessary that, in different places over the country, small centers should be established in which expression is given to the responsibility of the country for achieving is own swaraj—that is to say, its own welfare as a whole and not only in regard to its supply of homespun thread. The welfare of the people is a synthesis comprised of many elements, all intimately interrelated. To take them in isolation can lead to no real result. Health and work, reason, wisdom and joy, must all be thrown into the crucible in order that the result may be fullness of welfare. We want to see a picture of such welfare before our eyes, for that will teach us ever so much more than any amount exhortation. We must have before us, in various centers of population, examples of different types of revived life abounding in health and wisdom and prosperity. Otherwise we shall never be able to bring about the realization of what swaraj means simply by dint of spinning threads, weaving khaddar, or holding discourses. That which we would achieve for the whole of India must be actually made true even in some small corner of it-then only will a worshipful striving for it be born in our hearts. Then only shall we know the real value of self-determination, na medhaya na bahudha srutena, not by reasoning nor by listening to lectures, but by direct experience. If, even the people of one village of India, by the exercise of their own powers make their village their very own, then and there will begin the work of realizing our country as our own.


Fauna and flora take birth in their respective regions, but that does not make any such region belong to them. Man creates his own motherland. In the work of its creation as well as of its preservation, the people of the country come into intimate relations with one another, and a country so created by them, they can love better than life itself. In our country its people are only born there in: they are taking no hand in its creation; therefore between them there are no deep-seated ties of connection, nor is any loss sustained by the whole country felt as a personal loss by the individual. We must reawaken the faculty of gaining the motherland by creating it. The various processes of creation need all the various powers of man. In the exercise of these multifarious powers, along many and diverse roads, in order to reach one and the same goal, we may realize ourselves in our own country. To be fruitful, such exercise of our powers must begin near home and gradually spread further and further outwards. If we are tempted to look down upon the initial stage of such activity as too small, let us remember the teaching of  Gita:  swalpamasaya dharmosya travate mahato bhatyat, by the least bit of dharma(truth) are we saved from immense fear. Truth is powerful, not in its dimensions but in itself.


When acquaintance with, practice of, and pride in cooperative self-determination shall have spread in our land, then on such broad abiding foundation alone may swaraj become true. So long as we want therein, both within and without and while such want is proving the root of all our other wants…want of food, of health, of wisdom-it is past all belief that any programme of outward activity can rise superior to the poverty of spirit which has overcome our people. Success begets success; likewise swaraj alone can beget swaraj.


The right of God over the universe is His swaraj…the right to create it. In that same privilege, I say, consists our swaraj, namely our right to create our own country. The proof of such right, as well as its cultivation, lies in the exercise of the creative process. Only by living do we show that we have life.


It may be argued that spinning is also a creative act. But that is not so; for, by turning its wheel man merely becomes an appendage of the charka; that is to say, he but does himself what a machine might have done he converts his living energy into a dead turning movement. The machine is solitary, because being devoid on mind it is sufficient unto itself and knows nothing outside itself. Likewise, alone is the man who confines himself to spinning, for the thread produced by his charka is not for him a thread on necessary relationship with others. He has no need to think of his neighbour-like the silkworm  his activity is centered round himself. He becomes a machine isolated, companionless. Members of Congress who spin may, while so engaged, dream of some economic paradise for their country, but the origin of their dream is elsewhere;  the charka has no spell from which such dreams may spring. But the man who is busy trying to drive out some epidemic from his village, even should he be unfortunate enough to be all alone in such endeavour, needs must concern himself with the interests of the whole village in the beginning, middle and end of his work, so that because of this very effort he cannot help realizing within himself the village as a whole and at every moment consciously rejoicing in its creation. In his work, therefore, does the striving for swaraj make a true beginning? When the others also come and join him, then alone can we say that the whole village is making progress towards the gain of itself which is the outcome of the creation of itself? Such gain may be called the gain of swaraj. However small the size of it may be, it is immense in its truth.


The village of which the people came together to earn for themselves their food, their health, their education, to gain for themselves the joy of so doing, shall have lighted a lamp on the way to swaraj. It will not be difficult therefore to light others, one after another, and thus illuminate more and more of the path along which swaraj will advance, not propelled by the mechanical revolution of the charka, but taken by the organic processes of its own living growth.


I remember that many of our women used to go about almost naked in the villages. Mahatma Gandhi said, the use of impure cloth was like using a piece of cloth used by a leper. I remember this made me feel very angry and when Mahatmaji came to see me I asked him, “Do you seriously mean to say that foreign cloth is really impure?’ He kept silent and did not give a definite reply but merely remarked that he believed in idolatry. I suppose he believed that idolatry is needed for our people. Idolatry is to make an idol of an idea. I have no doubt that he felt fully justified in making use of this idolatry. I felt that by this means he was merely increasing the blind hatred of the English. Although it was almost dangerous to have opposed Mahatmaji in those days, I said, ‘It is a worse calamity to lose our freedom of mind than not to gain our political freedom.’ I told Mahatmaji, ’If what you say is true, then our people cannot accept truth unless it is presented to them in the form of falsehood.’ To my mind this is our real problem and not foreign subjection. This is the greatest evil and an evil from which nobody can save us. Even in politics we do the same thing. We criticize the British Government saying that a particular law or a particular event was objectionable. We dare not boldly say that foreign government must go.


Last year I said to Mahatmaji when he came to Santiniketan, ‘You have not defined swaraj. Do you mean by it complete independence? He again kept silent and avoided a direct answer and remarked that he has very great faith in the character of the British people. I gather from that remark that he wanted the British connection to be severed..


What is fundamentally wrong in India is that our people live like a crowd. There is no common unifying activity of creation. Our land is merely occupied by us. We do not do anything to make it our own. The real problem in India is that we must make the whole country a creation of our own. A creation, in which, all the communities and individuals will participate. I myself have started an organization with the villagers in the neighborhood of Santiniketan. There are both Hindus and Mohammedans. We make no distinction between them. We are giving them training for improving sanitation, in organizing medical relief, in building village schools and also in creating cooperative organizations, in which both Hindus and Mohammedans take part and work for the common good. A very significant incident took place during the Calcutta riots. A large number of Mohammedan rowdies from outside were imported to Bolpur and a mischievous rumor was spread that a Hindu temple would be destroyed and demolished. The strange thing, however, was that we had no need to seek police help. We went to our own Mohammedan villagers who had been working for the common good and had no separate communal jealousy and hatred. The Mohammedan villagers prevented the Mohammedan rowdies who came from outside from doing any mischief and actually turned them away from the surrounding country.


In India, this is our task. We must set up organizations through which we can actively win back our own country. They must be human and not merely mechanical. Here I differ from Mahatmaji. He thinks that charka alone will do. I want to take the whole life of the village. My little experiment in Santiniketan has convinced me that if we succeed it will be an object lesson to the whole of Bengal. The village boys, some Mohammedan, some Brahmin, some of the lower caste, all work together for the good of the village. They live and grow in an atmosphere of common activity. They are the future villagers and if you can succeed in enlightening them to a sensation of common good, the problem will be solved…It will take time but that is the only way. I am sure that after the first difficulties are over, if the work is once successful, it will spread like fire. The first ten years will be difficult and we must wait patiently.


When people asked me why I did not join Mahatmaji, I did not care to give a formal reply. I know in my heart that I will prepare my answer in the slow work in the villages where I am hoping to reach a final solution of our problem.


A shadow is darkening today over India like a shadow cast by an eclipsed sun. The people of a whole country are suffering from a poignant pain of anxiety, the universality of which carries in it a great dignity of consolation. Mahatmaji, who through his life of dedication has made India his own in truth, has commenced his vow of extreme self-sacrifice.


An appeal by Tagore on 22nd Sept 1932.


I appeal to my countrymen that they must not delay a moment effectively to prove that they are in earnest to eradicate from their neighbourhood untouchability in all its ramifications. The movement should be universal and immediate, its expressions clear and indubitable. All manner of humiliation and disabilities from which any class in India suffers should be removed by heroic efforts and self-sacrifice. Whoever of us fails in this time of grave crisis to try his utmost to avert the calamity facing India would be held responsible for one of the saddest tragedies that could happen to us and to the world.


Ya eko varno bahudha saktiyogat

Varnana anekan nihitartho dadhati

Vichaiti chanti visvamadan sa devah

Sa na budhhya subhaya samyunakto


Svetavatra Upanishad


He who is one, and who dispenses the inherent needs of all peoples and all times, who is in the beginning and the end of all things, may he unite us with the bond of truth of common fellowship, of righteousness.


After my return from some months touring in the West, I found the whole country convulsed with the expectation of an immediate Independence-Gandhiji had promised swaraj in one year-by the help of some process that was obviously narrow in its scope and external in its observance.


Such an assurance, coming from a great personality, produced a frenzy of hope even in those who were ordinarily sober in their calculation of worldly benefits; and they angrily argued with me that in this particular case it was not a question of logic, but a spiritual phenomenon that had a mysterious influence and miraculous power of prescience. This had the effect of producing a strong doubt in my mind about Mahatmaji’s wisdom in the path through satisfying an inherent weakness in our character which has been responsible for the age-long futility of our political life.


We, who often glorify our tendency to ignore reason, installing in its place blind faith, valuing it as spiritual, are ever paying for it with the obscuration of our mind and destiny. I blamed Mahatmaji for exploiting this irrational force of credulity in our people, which might have had a quick result in a superstructure, while sapping the foundation. Thus began my estimate of Mahatmaji, as the guide of our nation and it is fortunate for me that it did not end there.


Gandhiji, like all dynamic personalities, needed a vast medium for the proper and the harmonious expression of his creative will. This medium he developed for himself, when he assumed the tremendous responsibility of leading the whole country to freedom past countless social ditches and fences and the unlimited dullness of barren politics. This endeavour has enriched and mellowed his personality and revealed what was truly significant in his genius. I have since learnt to understand him, as I would understand an artist, not by the theories and fantasies of the creed he may profess, but by that expression in his practice which gives evidence to the uniqueness of his mind. In that only true perspective, as I watch him, I am amazed at the effectiveness of his humanity.


An ascetic himself, he does not frown on the joy of others, but works for the enlivening of their existence day and night. He exalts poverty in his own life, but no man in India has striven more assiduously than he for the material welfare of his people. A reformer with the zeal of a revolutionary, he imposes severe restraints on the very passions he provokes. Something of an idolater and also an iconoclast, he leaves the old gods in their dusty niches of sanctity, and simply lures the old worship to better and more humane purposes. Professing his adherence to the caste system, he launches his firmest attack against it where it keeps its strongest guards, and yet he has hardly suffered from  popular disapprobation as would have been the case with a lesser man who would have much less power to be effective in his efforts.


He condemns sexual life as inconsistent with the moral progress of man, and has a horror of sex as great as that of the author of The Kreutzer Sonata, but, unlike Tolstoy, he betrays no abhorrence of the sex that tempts his kind. In fact, his tenderness for woman is one of the noblest and most consistent traits of his character, and he counts among the women of his country some of his best and truest comrades in the great movement he is leading.


He advises his follower to hate evil without hating the evil-doer. It sounds an impossible precept, but he has made it as true as it can be made in his own life. I had once occasion to be present at an interview he gave to a certain prominent politician who had been denounced by the official Congress party as a deserter. Any other Congress leader would have assumed a repelling attitude, but Gandhiji was all graciousness and listened to him with patience and sympathy, without once giving him occasion to feel small. Here, I said to myself, is a truly great man, for he is greater than the party he belongs to, greater even than the creed he professes.


This, then, it seems to me to be the significant fact about Gandhiji. Great as he is as a politician, as an organizer, as a leader of men, as a moral reformer, he is greater than all these as a man, because none of these aspects and a activities limits his humanity. They are rather inspired and sustained by it. Though an incorrigible idealist and given to referring all conduct to certain pet formula of his own, he is essentially a lover of men and not a mere ideas; which makes him so cautious and conservative in his revolutionary schemes. If he proposes an experiment for society, he must first subject himself to its ordeal. If he calls for sacrifice, he must first pay its price himself. While many Socialists wait for all to be deprived of their privileges before they would part with theirs, this man first renounces before he ventures to make any claims on the renunciation of others.


There are patriots in India, as indeed among all peoples, who have sacrificed for their country as much as Gandhiji has done, and some who have had to suffer much worse penalties than he has ever had to endure; even in the religious sphere, there are ascetics in this country compared to the rigours of whose practices Gandhis life is one of comparative ease. But this patriots are mere patriots and nothing more; and these ascetics are mere spiritual athletes, limited as men by their very virtues; while this man seems greater than his virtues, great as they are.


Perhaps none of the reforms with which his name is associated was originally his in conception. They have almost all been proposed and preached by his predecessors or contemporaries. Long before the Congress adopted them, I had myself preached and written about the necessity of a constructive programme of rural reconstruction in India; of handicrafts as an essential element in the education of our children; of the absolute necessity of riding Hinduism of the nightmare of untouchability. Nevertheless, it remains true, that they have never had the same energizing power in then as when he took them up; for now they are quickened by the great life-force of the complete man who is absolutely one with his ideas, whose visions perfectly blend with his whole being.


His emphasis on the truth and purity of the means, from which he has evolved his creed of non-violence, is but another aspect of his deep and insistent humanity; for it insists that men in their fight for their claims must only so assert their rights, whether as individuals or as groups, as never to violate their fundamental obligation to humanity, which is to respect life. To say that, because existing rights and privileges of certain classes were originally won and are still maintained by violence, they can only be destroyed by violence, is to create an unending circle of viciousness; for there will always be men with some grievance, fancied or real, against the prevailing order of society, who will claim the same immunity from moral obligation and the right to wade to their goal through slaughter.


Somewhere the circle has to be broken, and Gandhiji wants his country to win the glory of first breaking it.


Perhaps he will not succeed. Perhaps he will fail as the Buddha failed and as Christ failed to wean men from their iniquities, but he will always be remembered as one who made his life a lesson for all ages to come.






Rabindranath made three major points in his lecture on nationalism.


  1. That war and misery were caused by the cult of the nation;
  2. That the British Government was entirely impersonal, with the result that there was no affection between them and their colonial subjects;
  3. That Indians should not claim equality among nations until they could remove their own social injustices of Caste and untouchability.


He came in touch with Mahatma Gandhi in 1915. They grew to be lifelong friends sharing closely their common concern for humanity.  But their actions took different paths. On 12 April 1919, two days after the declaration of martial law in the Punjab, Rabindranath wrote a long and intimate letter to Gandhi cautioning him about the use of ‘passive resistance’ as a political weapon without preparing the minds of the masses for the responsibility. He did not join Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement.


I find our countrymen are furiously excited about Non-cooperation. It will grow into something like our Swadeshi Movement in Bengal. Such emotional outbreaks have been taken advantage of in starting independent organizations all over India for serving our country. Let Mahatma Gandhi be the true leader in this; let him send his call for positive service; ask for homage in sacrifice, which has its end in love and creation. I shall be willing to sit at his feet and do his bidding if he commands me to cooperate with my countrymen in service and love. I refuge to waste my manhood in lighting fires of anger and spreading it from house to house.


It is not that I do not feel anger in my heart for injustice and insult heaped upon my motherland. But this anger of mine should be turned into the fire for lighting the lamp of worship to be dedicated through my country to my God.


It would be an insult to humanity if I use the sacred energy of my moral indignation for the purpose of spreading a blind passion all over my country. It would be like using the fire from the alter of sacrifice for the purpose of incendiarism.


But I must not misunderstood. There is such a thing as a moral standard of judgments. When India suffers from injustice, it is right that we should stand against it; and the responsibility is ours to right the wrong, not as Indians, but as human beings. There your position is higher than most of our countrymen’s. You have accepted the cause of India for the sake of humanity. But I know that most of our people will accept your help as a matter of course and yet reject your lesson. You are fighting against the patriotism whereby the West had humiliated the East-the patriotism which is national egoism. This is a comparatively later growth in European than the bloodthirsty ferocity, the nomadic savagery, in the primitive history of man.


The Pathans came to India, and the Mughals, and they perpetrated misdeeds in their heedlessness; but because they had no taint of patriotism they did not attack India at the very root of her life, keeping superciliously aloof. Gradually they were growing one with us; and just as the Normans and Saxons combined to one people, our Mohammedan invaders would ultimately have lost their line of separateness and contributed to the richness and strength of Indian civilization.


We must remember that Hinduism is not original Aryanism; in fact, a great portion of it is nor-Aryan. Another great mixture had been awaiting us,  the mixture with the Mohammedans. I know there were difficulties in its way. But the greatest of difficulties was lacking-the idolatry of Geography. Just see what hideous cries are being committed by British patriotism in Ireland; It is a python which refuses to disgorge this living creature which struggles to live its separate life. For patriotism is proud of its build,  and in order to hold in a bond of unity, the units that have their own distinct individualities, it is ever ready to use means that are inhuman. Our own patriots would do just the same thing, if the occasion arose. When a minority of our population claimed its right of inter-caste marriage, the majority; cruelly refused to allow it that freedom. It would not acknowledge a difference which was natural and real, but was willing to perpetrate a moral torture for more reprehensible than a physical one. Why? Because,  power lies in number and in extension. Power, whether in the patriotic or any other form, in no lover of freedom. It talks of unity, but forgets that the true unity in that of freedom. Uniformity is unit of bondage.



Suppose, in our swaraj, the anti-Brahmin community refuses to join hands with us; suppose, for the sake of its self-respect and self-expression, it tries to keep an absolute independence-patriotism will try to coerce it into an unholy union. For patriotism has its passion of power; and power builds its castle upon arithmetic. I love India, but by India is an Idea and not a geographical expression. Therefore, I am not a patriot-I shall ever seek my compatriots all over the world. You are one of them, and I am sure there are many others. (My life in My words, pg-190-193)


Here it will be appropriate to recall the writing a letter by Shri Guru chand Thakur in reply to Gandhi when Surendra nath Banerji then Congress President told him that the in Bengal’s depressed class leader specially Noma’s leader Shri Guru chan Thakur and his followers are boycotting the foreign cloth burning movement. Gandhi wrote to Thakur in support of this movement. In a short reply to Gandhi Shri Thakur wrote a very simple reply that his community is so poor that they even could not afford to buy the local made clothe, How can they bought foreign cloths? Therefore burning of foreign cloths does not arise at all for his community. In another letter Thakur wrote regarding non-cooperation movement. He explains that the depressed class people in Bengal never came to the contact with the ruling class and never co-operate with them. Therefore those who never cooperate with foreign ruler whether British or Mugal cannot non-cooperate with them. There was no further correspondence between them.


My religion is my life


Tagore said “My religion is my life” – it is growing with my growth-it has never been grafted on me from outside. I had denied God when I was younger just as the flower in its pride of blossoming youth completely ignores the fruit which is its perfection. But now that the fruit is here with the mystery of the immortal life hidden in the core of its seed I accept it simply as I accept the reality of my own person though I have no logic to explain its existence. Therefore I am not at all anxious about the godlessness of your gardener. For all growth is a rhythm and all true religion is a part of true religion-it is hopeless when it is an absolute negation, when it has no seed of life in it, when it is a sign of decay and of death. p321.


I do not subscribe to theories of religion. I say nothing when there is a discourse on dvaitavada or adavaitavada, dualism or non-dualism. I have understood that the God-within-me finds expression in happiness. That happiness takes over everything-my body, my mind, my universe, my age-old past, my unending future. I don’t understand this fully. I think it must be lila, the mystery of life. I am stepped in it. The fact that I can savour the light, the morning sky, the evening clouds, that I can enjoy the foliage and the faces of loved ones, are all the result of this overpowering sensation which plays like shadows in the joys and sorrows of my life.


This is what my Creator has done for me. He has blessed me with the realization that I am connected with Him by a bond of mutual love. I do believe it is he who provides all my pleasures, and he who embraces me in my agonies. That gives me the solid faith that nothing is lost, that it is all a part of life’s total picture. Let me quote from an old letter of mine:


I cannot claim I am able to understand and absorb religion in its general sense. But I can say with certainty that there is something that is living in me. It is a feeling of mystery, not a dogma, it is a distinct awareness and my faith will together give my life a certain harmony. I don’t know whether the scriptures are true or false. What I do know is that they mean nothing to me. I also know that my inner realization will depend on my own thoughts and actions. Like an idea or a verse which can’t be broken up by spelling every word of it, our joys and sorrows can’t be separated from life’s total picture. Whenever I feel the unity of the creative power within myself I also feel connected to the infinite creativity of the universe. Like the sun, the moon and the stars, I become aware of an abiding creative power within me which is in control of my desires and my disappointments. Who can tell where all this will lead to because we have so little knowledge. We don’t even know what is contained in a single speck of dust. All I have learnt is that my personal losses will find their natural place if I can connect to the vastness that exists in time and space.


I have come to see myself as a part of that vastness-to understand that nothing, not even an atom, can survive without me. Therefore my sense of the beauty of an autumn morning is not unlike the relationship I enjoy with my family. That is how the luminous space around me enters the depths of my heart. Its absolute grandeur comes to me in the cadences and colours of my songs. I feel we are in continuous dialogue day and night.


The creative power I describe in the letter above-the power that has helped me to come to terms with my life’s joys and sorrows and to unite me with the universe-is the One I call jiban debata, Lord of my life.


“Jiban debata”,( Lord of my life)


Lord of my being, has your wish been

Fulfilled in me?

Days have passed without service and

Nights without love.

Flowers have dropped on to the dust

and have not been gathered for

your acceptance.

The harp string strung with your own

hands have slackened and lost their


I slept in the shadow of your garden

and forgot to water your plants.

Is the time over now, my lover?

Have we come to the end of this play?

Then let the bell ring of departure,

let the morning come for the freshening of love.

Let the knot of a new life be tied for us

 in a new bridal bond.            (P323)


I believe in a spiritual world, not as anything separate from this world, but as its innermost truth. With the breath we draw, we must always feel this truth; that we are living in God. Born in this great world, full of the mystery of this infinite, we cannot accept our existence a momentary outburst of chance, drifting on the current matter towards an eternal nowhere. We cannot look upon our lives as dreams of a dreamer who has no awakening in all time. We have a personality to which matter and force are unmeaning unless related to something infinitely personal, whose nature we have discovered, in some measure in human love, in the greatness of good, in the martyrdom of heroic souls, in the effable beauty of nature, which can never be a mere physical fact nor anything but an expression personality. R.Tagore Personality, pp 154-55.



At the outburst of an experience which is unusual, such as happened to me in the beginning of my youth, the puzzled mind seeks its explanation in some settled foundation of that which is usual, trying to adjust an unexpected inner message to an organized belief which goes by the general name of a religion. And, therefore, I naturally was glad at that time of youth to accept from my father the post of secretary to a special section of the monotheistic church of which he was the leader. I took part in its services mainly by composing hymns which unconsciously took the many-thumbed impression of the orthodox mind, a composite smudge of tradition. Urged by my sense of duty I strenuously persuaded myself to think that my mental attitude was in harmony with that of the members of our association, although I constantly stumbled upon obstacles and felt constraints that hurt me to the quick.


At last I came to discover that in my conduct I was not strictly loyal to my religion, but only to the religious institution. This latter represented an artificial average, with its standard of truth at its static minimum, jealous of any vital growth that exceeded its limits. I have my conviction that in religion, and also in the arts, that which is common to a group is not important. Indeed, very often it is a contagion of mutual imitation. After a long struggle with the feeling that I was using a mask to hide the living face of truth, I gave up my connection with our church.


About this time, one day I chanced to hear a song from a beggar belonging to the Baul sect of Bengal. We have in the modern Indian religion deities of different names, forms and mythology, some Vedic and some others aboriginal. They have their special sectarian idioms and associations that give emotional satisfaction to those who are accustomed to their hypnotic influences. Some of them may have their aesthetic value to me and others philosophical significance over-encumbered by exuberant distraction of legendary myths. But what struck me this simple song was a religious expression that was neither grossly concrete full of crude details, nor metaphysical in its rarefied transcendentalism. At the same time it was alive with an emotional sincerity. It spoke of an intense yearning of the heart for the divine who is in Man and not in the temple, or scriptures in images and symbols. The worshipper addresses his songs to man the ideal, and says:


Temples and mosques obstruct thy path,

And I fail to hear thy call or to move,

when the teachers and priests angrily crowd round me.


He does not follow any tradition of ceremony, but only believes in love. According to him:


Love is the magic stone, that transmutes by its touch

greed into sacrifice.


He goes on to say;


For the sake of this love heaven longs to become earth and gods to become man.


Since then I have often tried to meet these people, and sought to understand them through their songs, which are their only form of worship. One is often surprised to find in many of these verses a striking originality of sentiment and diction; for, at their best, they are spontaneously individual in their expressions.


I have already made the confession that my religion is a poet’s religion. All that I feel about it is from vision and not from knowledge. Frankly, I acknowledge that I cannot satisfactorily answer any questions about evil, or about what happens after death. Nevertheless, I am sure that there have been some moments in my own experience when my soul had touched the infinite and has become intensely conscious of it through the illumination of joy. It has been said in our Upanishad that our mind and our words come away baffled from the Supreme Truth, but he who knows truth through the immediate joy of his own soul is saved from all doubts and fears.


That which I value most in my religion or my aspiration, I seek to find corroborated, in its fundamental unity, in other great religions, or in the hopes expressed in the history of other peoples. Each great movement of thought and endeavour in any part of the world may have something unique in its expression, but the truth underlying any of them never has the meretricious cheapness of utter novelty about it. The great Ganga must not hesitate to declare its essential similarity to the Nile of Egypt, or to  the Yangtse-Kiang of China.


O how may I express that secret world?

O how can I say He is not like this, and he is like that?

If I say He is within me, the universe is ashamed;

If I say that He is without me, it is falsehood.

He makes the inner and the outer worlds to be indivisible one;

The conscious and the unconscious, both are his footstools.

He is neither manifest nor hidden.

He is neither revealed nor unrevealed:

There are no words to tell that which He is.(p327)




Rabindranath Elaborated further in the context of the extremely brutal Hindu massacre and mass rape of the Hindu women by the Mopla Muslims in Kerala as given below: ..“Dr. Munje said in another part of his report that, eight hundred years ago, the Hindu king of Malabar (now Kerala) on the advice of his Brahmin ministers, made big favor to the Arab Muslim to settle in his kingdom. Even he appeased the Arab Muslims by converting the Hindus to Islam to an extent to making law for compulsory conversion of a member of each Hindu fisherman family in to Islam. Those, whose nature is to practice idiocy rather than common sense, never can enjoy freedom even if they are in the throne. They turn the hour of action in to a night of merriment. That’s why they are always struck by the ghost at the middle of the day.” Rabindranath continues, …“The king of Malabar once gave away his throne to idiocy. That idiocy is still ruling Malabar from a Hindu throne. That’s why the Hindus are still being beaten and saying that God is there, turning the faces towards the sky. Throughout India we allowed idiocy to rule and surrender ourselves to it. That kingdom of idiocy – the fatal lack of common sense – was continuously invaded by the Pathans, sometimes by the Mughals and sometimes by the British. From outside we can only see the torture done by them, but they are only the tools of torture, not really the cause. The real reason of the torture is our lack of common sense and our idiocy, which is responsible for our sufferings. So we have to fight this idiocy that divided the Hindus and imposed slavery on us……..If we only think about the torture we will not find any solution. But if we can get rid of our idiocy, the tyrants will surrender to us.”

[’Samasya,’ (The Problem), Agrahayan, 1330 Bangabda, in “Kalantar”.]


……….“When two or three different religions claim that only their own religions are true and all other religions are false and their religions are only way to Heaven, conflicts cannot be avoided. Thus, fundamentalism tries to abolish all other religions. This is called Bolshevism in religion. Only the path shown by the Hinduism can relieve the world from this meanness.”[Atmaparichay’ (The Self-realization) in the book ‘Parichay.’]“The terrible situation of the country makes my mind restless and I cannot keep silent. Meaningless rituals keep the Hindus divided in hundreds of sects. So we are suffering from series of defeats. We are tired and worn-out by the tortures by the internal and external enemies. The Muslims are united in religion and rituals. The Bengali Muslims, the South Indian Muslims and even the Muslims outside India – all are united. They always stand united in face of danger. The broken and divided Hindus will not be able to combat them. Days are coming when the Hindus will be again humiliated by the Muslims.” “You are a mother of children, one day you will die, passing the future of Hindu society on the weak shoulders of your children, but think about their future”.

[A letter to Hemantabala Sarkar, 16th Oct. 1933, quoted in Bengali weekly “Swastika”. June 21, 1999]



……..Whenever a Muslim calls upon the Muslim society, he never faces any resistance – he calls in the name of one God ‘Allah-hu-Akbar.’ On the other hand, when we (Hindus) call, ‘come on Hindus,’ who will respond? We, the divided in numerous small communities, may barriers – provincialism – who will respond overcoming all these obstacles?”………….“We were endangered by many invasions, but we could never be united. When Muhammad Ghouri brought the first blow from outside, the Hindus could not be united, even in those days of imminent danger. When the Muslims started to demolish the temples one after another, and to break the idols of Gods and Goddesses, the Hindus fought and died in small groups but they could not be united. It has been proved that we the Hindus were killed in different epochs of history due to our internal discord.”  “Weakness harbors sin. So, if the Muslims beat us and we, the Hindus, tolerate this without resistance – then, we will know that it is made possible only by our weakness. For the sake of ourselves and our neighbour Muslims also, we have to discard our weakness. We can appeal to our neighbour Muslims, ‘Please don’t be cruel to us. No religion should be based on genocide’ – but this kind of appeal is nothing but the weeping of the weak persons. When the low pressure is created in the air, storm comes spontaneously’ nobody can stop it for sake of religion. Similarly, if weakness is cherished and is allowed to exit, torture comes automatically – nobody can stop it. Possible, the Hindus and the Muslims can make a fake friendship to each other for a while, but that cannot last for ever. As long as you don’t purify the soil, which grows only thorny shrubs, you cannot expect any fruit.”

[“Letter to Swami Shraddhananda, ‘by Rabindranath, Magh, 1333 Bangabda’ complied in the book “Kalantar”]

GURUDEV RABINDRANATH TAGORE ON ISLAM=“There is a religion on the earth, which has distinct enmity against all other religions. This is Islam. They are not satisfied with just observing their own religions, but are determined to destroy all other religions. That’s why the only way to make peace with them is to embrace their religion.”

[The above is a part of a letter written by Rabindranath Tagore to Sri Kalidas Nag on 7th Asar, 1329 Bangabda, compiled in the article ‘Hindu-Muslim’ in the book ‘Kalantar’ and compiled in the Complete Works of Rabindranath (in Bengali), published by Viswabharati University, 1982, Vol. 24, p – 375 (tr – the author)]




READ MORE Jo Swinson|House of Commons|Diaspora|Dalits|caste bias


Jo Swinson, the equalities minister, told the House of Commons the government recognized that caste discrimination existed in the United Kingdom and it was “unacceptable”.

LONDON: Dalits in the United Kingdom have recorded a landmark victory after the British parliament finally agreed to outlaw caste discrimination.

In a major U-turn, the House of Commons, which had earlier trashed an amendment to include caste among other forms of discrimination.  On Tuesday voted for legal protection for the four lakh dalits living in the UK.

This makes the UK the first country outside South Asia to legislate against caste discrimination. On Wednesday business secretary Vince Cables said “caste is to be outlawed in the UK”.

Jo Swinson, the equalities minister, told the House of Commons the government recognized that caste discrimination existed in the United Kingdom and it was “unacceptable”. She said “very strong views have been expressed in the Lords on this matter and we have reconsidered our position and agreed to introduce caste-related legislation”. “We hope that this decision will serve as an example to other countries,” said Rikke Nohrlind, coordinator of the International Dalit Solidarity Network. “Caste discrimination is a global issue, affecting hundreds of millions of people in many parts of the world.”

The House of Lords had voted twice in support of the amendment, but the House of Commons had had reservations against it. MPs on Tuesday overturned their earlier decision and decided that caste would in future be treated as “an aspect of race”.

The amendment is part of the Equality Act 2010. Till now, the Act prohibited race discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the workplace. The definition of “race” within the Act includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin but does not specifically refer to caste.

Conservative MP Richard Fuller said “caste discrimination in the workplace is wrong and the people who suffer from it deserve legal protection”. The issue has divided the Indian diaspora in the UK. While groups like Caste Watch UK had been rallying to urge MPs to introduce legal protection for those from traditionally lower-caste backgrounds, the Hindu Alliance has called for a boycott of the amendment. According to the 2011 census, there are 816,633 Hindus based in the UK.




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